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  • Writer's pictureMathieu Powell

Looking For a Family Doctor in Victoria, BC

Updated: May 3, 2023


Greater Victoria, like much of Canada, has a shortage of family doctors. They are as rare as hen’s teeth. The reasons include an aging population with more complex care needs, and our government’s difficulties recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals.

If you are struggling to find a family doctor in Greater Victoria, this article provides several options and resources to help you in your search for medical practitioners.

Calling medical clinics is a good place to start, as some doctors may not have advertised that they are accepting new patients yet.


It’s also a good idea to ask for referrals from family or friends who live in the area and have a family doctor they trust. Naturopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, midwives, walk-in clinics, and telemedicine doctors are all viable alternatives to having a general GP.


The article also lists several resources such as the Victoria Medical Society, HealthLink BC, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC), and the South Island Division of Family Practice. The Victoria Seniors’ Directory is also a valuable resource for older adults.


Unfortunately, finding a family doctor could take a long time. However, with research, a systematic search, and a dollop of good luck, you CAN find a doctor, or a good alternative.


The BC government has been focused on delivering a better health care strategy for faster, improved access to health care in BC.


“Our priority is to find new ways of working, co-ordinating services and delivering care so that British Columbians don’t have to wait so long, travel so far, and search so hard for the care they need,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.


There are three levels of care you may receive. They are:


Emergency Care ER


Urgent Primary Care Clinics (UPCC). These are staffed by GPs who also have clinics and a patient roster. If you go there and then follow up with the physician, you might succeed in joining their clinic.


Primary Care Clinic (PCCs) headed by a GP or Nurse Practitioner offers a full service, holistic health care models. That includes social services, dietician, physiotherapists, nurses, GPs, and other health care providers. The Health Authority set these up to address a wider range of experts to alleviate the burden on GPs time. The PCCs are set up throughout BC, and there is no extra charge.


Alternate Forms of Primary Care


If you’ve decided to abandon finding a GP (general practitioner) as your first point of contact, there are other good options:


Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are highly trained healthcare providers with advanced education and clinical training that enables them to provide a range of health services, including prescribing medications. NPs are an excellent alternative if you are struggling to find a doctor. You can learn more about NPs and the role they now play in the health of our community HERE.


Walk in Clinics

Many people opt to rely on walk-in clinics when something is wrong with their health. The Medimap website is a good resource to find out which clinics are open, how long the wait is, and whether it is at capacity.


Telemedicine Doctors

Telemedicine has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is expected to continue to grow as a viable healthcare option in the future.


Telemedicine doctors provide consultations, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care to patients through videoconferencing or phone calls. This is an excellent alternative for people with limited access to traditional healthcare services or for those with mobility issues. However, it isn’t suitable for everyone. Island Health provides telehealth locations and discusses if this would be a good option for you.


Midwives

If you're expecting a baby, consider a highly trained midwife to help you with a safe and healthy pregnancy, birth, and newborn care. They are experienced in working with hospitals, clinics, and home-based deliveries, and they collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure you have the best maternity care experience possible.

When my family was looking for a GP, it was our midwife who told us about nurse practitioners as an excellent alternative, then she helped us to make the connection.


Naturopathic Doctors

In B.C., naturopathic doctors (NDs) are licensed and regulated healthcare providers. They can prescribe and administer certain medications such as vitamin and mineral supplements, botanical medicines, homeopathic remedies, and other natural health products. However, NDs in British Columbia are not authorized to prescribe certain medications, such as narcotics or controlled substances. What they can do in their scope of practice is outlined by the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia (CNPBC).


More Resources to Help You Find a Family Doctor or Other Medical Practitioners


They list family doctors and, if you are pregnant, they also have a list of maternity doctors who are accepting new patients.


You can reach them by calling 811, and they can provide you with information about walk-in clinics as well as other resources in the area that keeps track of which doctors are accepting patients.


CPSBC has an online directory which allows you to search for doctors by location, specialty, and language spoken.


This organization works to improve access to primary care services in the region and may be able to help you find a family doctor.


If you are an older adult, this invaluable directory will help you find all manor of specific medical help, support groups and contact information.


Be Patient in Your Search.


Double entendre aside, finding the right family doctor can take time, so be patient and persistent in your search. It's important to have a doctor you feel comfortable with and who can meet your health needs.

 

Community Feedback:


I enjoy your What’s On Victoria newsletter. However, I feel a need to add more info re finding a doctor in Victoria.

One of the biggest issues re. the shortage wasn’t mentioned. That is the fact that family doctors are retiring early in droves because they aren’t making enough profit. They are not able to even sell their businesses because new doctors interested in buying discover that problem during due diligence.

I was without a doctor twice, for 5 years each time (both doctors retired because of their own serious health issues – that’s an additional factor; doctors are burning out). This happened just as my age (80) caught up to me & my health began to need greater care. I did all the things your article suggests. None found me a doctor.

I was waitlisted for 3 years for a Nurse Practitioner & finally got one. I was assigned one particular N.P. & initially I was thrilled. I got the first full body exam I’d had for almost a decade; the service was in-depth; I was able to deal with several issues during the same appointment.

But 4 years down the line, I am NOT happy. It can now take 2-3 weeks to even get a phone appointment. I never get the NP I was assigned; it’s always someone different. That results in a lack of rapport, no continuity (a recent infection involved me contacting their office 3 times & each time I was referred to a different N.P. & had to repeat the same info each time). When I phone, their system does not allow me to speak directly with anyone (not even a receptionist). If I have an urgent matter I can leave my phone number & MIGHT get a call-back for an appointment that day (if there’s space). If I don’t need to see someone immediately, I must leave a message that may not get me a return call for 3 days.

Over the past 4 years I have written letters to everyone connected to the medical field in BC & Ottawa. The horrifying fact is that they’ve known about this problem for well over a decade but never done anything to even begin to fix it. From all the Letters to the Editor from current & retired medical personnel, there are easy practical actions that could be taken. I don’t understand why a Task Force has been struck to utilize those people & their expertise to change things.

Barbara McDonell

 

I am 82, reasonably good health, and virtually all of my life had a family physician who examined me each year, but my family doctor retired and I am searching for a physician who can routinely examine me.


Anonymous


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